Dear Single Sisters,

This is not going to be the obligatory Christian blog post about your singleness and how they are the best years of your life and you should cherish them blah blah blah.

I know. You have a biological clock that’s a tickn and you are going to throat punch the next person who tells you to live it up now because you won’t be able to when you have a husband and kids blah blah blah.

I’m going to give you some advice that may, ironically, expedite the process. Or it may not. Only God knows. But this advice, if taken, will make you more attractive and more prepared for marriage. And, if you choose to remain single, you will still find joy and satisfaction if you do this.

Here it is:

Convince yourself that marriage is not going to make you happy. I am dead serious about this. You must know this. When you know it, you will be more ready for marriage than ever before. Do you know how many women dream of marriage, but never think a day beyond? It’s like they think life is a Disney fairy-tell that ends after the wedding day. We are products of our culture, I tell you. The day after your wedding will come, and it will not be happily ever after. No matter who you marry. There will be hard days. There will be lonely days. There will be difficult times. There will also be good times. But if you go into marriage expecting that it will be the source of your happiness, you will destroy it. Marriage was not meant to make you happy. It was designed by God to sanctify you. Joy may very well be a byproduct of sanctification, but there will be little to no joy if you expect your spouse to be the source of your happiness. It will drain him. No one can do that for you but Jesus. Jesus can do that for you now. You don’t have to wait to be married to be happy.

When you are deriving your joy from Jesus, you will become one of the most attractive people around. People will long to be around you. Why? Because you are filled with the Holy Spirit. You are filled with confidence that you are loved and cared for by the Creator of the Universe. You know that you don’t need to snag a husband to be happy. You know that being single does not mean you are undesirable or unloved. You are happy and confident now, and that makes you irresistible.

And when someone falls in love with this beautiful, confident, joyful woman, he will have the luxury of being your husband without the pressure of being your source of joy. When our emotions are dependent on what our husbands say or don’t say, we drain them of life and leave them feeling like failures. Because let’s face it, the greatest man on earth will never be able to meet our need for attention and validation. Only Jesus can do that. So if you let Jesus do that for you now instead of thinking you need a man to do that for you, you will not only become a more attractive person, but you will have a mindset that is ready for marriage. You will be ready for a marriage where you are filling up on the Holy Spirit and pouring out into your spouse rather than trying to fill up on your spouse, who will never be able to do that job like Jesus can.

So whether you meet your future spouse tomorrow, ten years from now, or whether you remain single, you can be full of joy if you start really believing that marriage will never be the source of your happiness and that a man will never be able to give you the kind of validation that you will find in Jesus.

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Chapter 6- Catherine and Fritz

December 1844

The winter of 1844 was both bitterly cold and wondrously beautiful. Catherine was nineteen. She braved the icy gusts to care for Chestnut and her new horse, Charlie. It was so bitterly cold that Catherine had taken the chickens into the cellar. It was warmer than out there, exposed to the harsh winter winds with nothing but a rickety old coop to protect them. She was certain if they didn’t die of the cold, the nearly starved coyotes would dig their way in, so she did her best to keep the cellar from stinking too much in the house.

This winter, the trees were something of particular majesty, and often in the calm after a blizzard, Catherine would tromp across the fresh sparkly snow just to stare at the crystals frozen on the tree. She would breathe deeply. The cold air filled her lungs. It smelled fresh and clean. Her cheeks turned bright red in the freezing air, but she felt it was worth facing the winter gusts to catch a glimpse of the tree frozen in glorious beauty and breathe in the smell of clean winter air.

She often rode Charlie to the edge of the land to overlook the Mississippi. Always, she hoped to catch sight of bald eagles as they flew above the river in all their majesty. She was rarely disappointed.

It was one of these visits to the river’s edge when she saw an eagle take flight, closed her eyes, and realized she was happy again, without Dane.

To her, he was all she had been missing out on, and he had opened the doors of her mind to see beyond what she had known. She was content to stay in her home and to travel no more than twenty miles in any direction. He traveled coast to coast, ocean to ocean. She spent all of her time with her mother and father and occasionally a miner. He had spent his time with everyone from english nobleman to the impoverished Martin family. He made and spent more money in a month than Catherine ever saw together at one time. When she closed her eyes and saw his face, she felt assured that there was a world altogether more exciting than anything she had ever known. For that reason, she treasured her memories of him. In the first weeks after his departure, thoughts of him made her heart ache so that she thought she might never feel happy again. But slowly, the ache faded, leaving her with only the memories of the happiness and excitement he brought to her.

Dane was not so much as a person whose love she had lost, but a person who had brought immeasurable richness to her life. Because of him, she knew what it felt like to help someone truly in need. Because of him, she vaguely understood the happenings of the world around her. And because of him, her heart had hurt and healed. She felt a sense of peace at the thought of Dane becoming nothing more to her than a distant, pleasant memory.

 

A new young miner had taken an interest in Catherine. He was eighteen, as was she. And she had seen him on occasion as he went into the mine. He was young and bright and full of life. He was quite handsome, and Catherine had the idea he was well aware of his superior appearance. His name was Fritz and he assured Catherine that he was only to be miner long enough to afford his educated, at which point he would go back east. Within a matter of days, Catherine knew not only that he intended to major in Literature, but that he had graduated at the top of his class. Catherine felt some excitement at the prospect of having someone her age around to talk to, but she also felt irritated at his antics. But then, she had felt irritated with Dane at first impression as well. Though, she couldn’t help but feel that this was different. Dane had been so confident as to never feel the need to give voice to his accolades. Fritz seemed always to steer the conversation so as to have opportunity to mention one of his many talents or achievements. Dane had been of a c nb endless quest to impress and Catherine was sure it had quite the opposite effect. Still, he was easy to look at, of a strong build, and a friendly nature. Catherine had noticed some of the older miner’s daughters had taken to coming to the entrance of the mine either in the beginning or the end of the work day. To Catherine, they looked somewhat younger than herself, and they were pretty enough. One of them, Isla Catherine had overheard her name,  had such a head of red hair and such light blue eyes that she couldn’t help but turn heads. Yet, to the dismay of Isla and her friends, Fritz seemed altogether more interested in Catherine, who could not understand why. Isla batted her eyes at Fritz, brought him homemade bread and had her father invite him home for meals. Catherine barely listened to his stories, nodded or smiled occasionally and was sometimes even so rude as to hint at his departure. She was certain Fritz knew that she only tolerated him. Still, week after week, there he was to buy something or other from her, to preach about this thing or that, to tell her the latest work of literature he had read.

“Good morning Catherine!” She barely looked up.

“Good morning, Fritz.”

“How are you today?”
“I’m fine…and you?”
“Wonderful. I wondered if I might walk you home after the day’s work tonight?”

“That is very kind of you, but I have a horse with me today. It’s some ways our home.”

He looked disappointed and perhaps a bit angry, but managed to find a way to talk about how he would have majored in Art and Literature but the mining will have all but ruined his hands for holding a brush. He lamented on how it was such a shame he had to work to afford his education. Catherine nodded apologetically. Finally, he turned to leave and Catherine let out a long sigh.

 

It was her father who ended up inviting Fritz for dinner. It was a cold march evening, and Catherine heard the clicking of Chestnut’s hooves. She began to set the table as her mother finished preparing the food.

“You won’t mind setting an extra place, Catherine?” She looked up. It was Fritz. Smiling from ear to ear as if he were the most welcome visitor in the whole of Dubuque. She struggled to mask her disappointment behind a smile.
“Of course not.” She set another place at the table.

True to his nature, Fritz spent the entirety of the meal talking about plans for his future in writing and perhaps teaching. Elizabeth, having been brought up in the propriety of English society, nodded and smiled and asked a great many questions. Catherine was fairly impressed by her mother’s ability to feign interest so enthusiastically. Throughout dinner, she said hardly a word, and glared at her father, whom she had trusted to never bring home a man who would try to gain her attentions, especially so frivolous a man. Did her father not know her at all?

 

“Will you give me the pleasure of walking with me, Catherine?” Fritz said after having finished dinner.

“It’s dark outside.”

“Well, then, over to the fire-place.”

“She saw no polite way of refusing.” She glanced at her mother, who gave her a stern look, which Catherine knew immediately meant that propriety ought to take precedence over her feelings of discomfort. She went with him, her mother and father disappearing into the library.

“Catherine, I think you know what I’m about to say.”

“Quite the contrary. I have no idea what you want to say to me. But, by all means…” she motioned for him to sit near the fire. He did.
“Catherine,” and from there, he got to his knee. Catherine felt herself go red with anger or embarrassment or both. She was not sure which. “I love you…”

“Oh, get up!” she said, cutting him off. “You do not love me. What do you know of love? Don’t you ever say that to me again.” Fritz grew red in the face and fierce in the eyes.

“Oh, please, Fritz, you can’t have thought I would say yes.”

“I did, actually. And you are making a big mistake.”

“Oh, am I? In refusing someone I have no interest in? You think I ought to throw myself at you, then? And why? Because you are going to the University? No, thank you, Fritz. I am sure you will do very well there, and I am sure you will find a woman who will appreciate your many….accomplishments.”

“I don’t want another woman, Catherine. I love….erh….I want you.”

She composed herself. “Fritz, I apologize if I have caused you to believe I had interest. I do not.”

He had risen from his knee, and was now reaching for his coat and hat.

“A big mistake.” He repeated, as he stormed out the door.

Catherine sighed and collapsed on the chair.

“Mother! Father! You can come out of there know.”

“What in heavens was that about?” Her mother asked.

“That was about Father bringing that puffed up man here for dinner to ask my hand in marriage!” She glared at him.

“I did no such thing. He all but invited himself over tonight, and I had not the slightest inclination he was to ask for your hand. I thought perhaps the two of you had arranged this…that there may be a mutual interest…but to ask for your hand…no…I had not the slightest idea.”

“The impertinence!” her mother cried.

“The presumption!” Catherine added. And then, looking at each other, they all began to laugh, even Charles. It had been so long since Catherine had seen her dad laugh that she let her anger slip away.

Does Your Life Stink?

Imagine you injured yourself, and it led to a gaping wound. Now imagine you did not go to a doctor or even attempt to clean that wound, but tried to cover it up. You use bandage after bandage, but the wound gets infected and festers. Eventually, it begins to stink. The infection begins to spread to other parts of your body, and before you know it, your life is in grave danger, all because you hid your wound instead of taking care of it properly.

Emotional wounds are like that, too. When we are wounded, we often hide it from ourselves and those around us because we do not want to be vulnerable, or because we simply do not have the skills and knowledge to grieve healthy. So, we cover it up. We use coping mechanism. We ignore our feelings. We find pleasurable outlets in a vain attempt to forget our wounds. Over time, perhaps you will forget the wound on a conscious level. But subconsciously, it is still there wreaking havoc on your life as it spreads to every aspect of who you are. Eventually, you become a stench to those around you. That emotional wound which you thought you could cover up begins to stink. You begin to reach out to people for validation, but they will never be enough to validate you. You will begin to drain your friends and family with your constant need for attention and validation. Eventually, they will not know how to help you anymore. So you will believe that everyone has deserted you, that no one cares, that you are utterly alone in the world. You will turn to more pleasurable outlets, some of which may be destructive to your life. You will look for your sense of worth and value in other people and other things. But always, you will be left empty and alone.

You will be left empty and alone because the wound is still there, gaping, oozing, festering, and stinking.

In order to feel whole again, you have to acknowledge the wound. Once you have acknowledged it, you have to uncover it. You have to stop pursuing your distractions, and look at the wound. Once you have acknowledged its presence and stripped away the coping mechanisms and distractions you have been covering it up with, you will need to clean it.

Jesus will help you clean it. All along, you have been hiding the wound from yourself. Jesus knew about the wound, but you wouldn’t let Him see it. You wouldn’t even look at it yourself. Now that you are willing to acknowledge the wound and stop covering it up, it’s time to ask Jesus to take a look at it. He is the Great Physician, the Healer. He is the remedy for the wound.

If your wound tells you, You are not enough, Jesus tells you, I loved you enough to die for you. 

If your wound tells you, You are so stupid, Jesus tells you, I don’t create stupid things. 

If your wound tells you, No one could ever love you, Jesus tells you, I have loved you with an everlasting love. 

As you begin to allow Jesus to speak the truth which is cleansing ointment for your festering wound, it will slowly begin to heal. It will hurt at first. Sometimes it will be more pain than we thought we could endure, but Jesus will be there with you as you go through the pain of uncovering the wound, letting Him see it and apply His truth to it.

Soon, the wound will begin to show signs of healing. The infection is gone. It is still tender, perhaps, but it no longer stinks. It is getting better and better by the day as you look at it, tend to it, and apply the healing ointment of truth to it.

Others will notice you are no longer a stench. You do not cry out desperately for attention and validation to cover a festering wound because the wound is healing day by day. We will not be fully healed until that day when we are with Him in heaven. Healing is a journey, but once we start walking that path of healing, we begin to look more and more like Him. We become closer and closer to Him. One by one, our wounds begin to heal, and we become a pleasing aroma to those around us.

Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Jeremiah 30:17 “For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord, because they have called you an outcast: ‘It is Zion, for whom no one cares!’”

Isaiah 1:6 “From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil”

Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Transformational Prayer Ministry

When my husband and I found ourselves in an unexpected storm, a Pastor introduced us to a form of therapy called Transformational Prayer Ministry or TPM. I had heard of others finding freedom, peace, and success through TPM before, but I had myself been unwilling to try it. The reason I was unwilling is because I did not like the idea of going into my emotions and memories. The past is the past, right? Why worry about it? Why dig all of that up? I was so wrong. I did not realize just how much my past was affecting every single part of my life. It was affecting my relationships. It was affecting the way I was parenting my children. It was affecting my marriage. Finally, when I all but lost everything, I realized that the past cannot be ignored. It was a lesson I probably should have learned the first time I watched the Lion King, but I digress.

After having experienced something that was nothing short of a total life transformation, I began to eagerly tell people how God had healed my heart through a Christian therapist and Transformational Prayer Ministry. The type of healing that took place in my heart was deep enough to go back to my earliest childhood memories. I was healed not only in the present situation, but from words that hurt me as a child. I began to look at the world in a whole new way. I saw people as hurting, rather than antagonistic. I saw myself as valuable independent of anyone’s opinions of me. My relationships began to flourish. My children changed. My marriage changed. My heart felt light. I felt closer to Jesus than ever before.

So you can imagine my surprise when I was met with some resistance from fellow Christians. Some of them believed that a person should be able to find that complete sort of healing from reading the Bible alone. I have been a lover of the Word of God for many years. So why did I not experience healing change until I was willing to go into my memories?

I believe it is because as much as I read the Word of God, God was not going to force me to open up the areas of my heart that I was not willing to open up. He was not going to force me to go places I did not want to go. I had to make the choice to go there. And when I did, I saw that God was there waiting for me all along.

To practice TPM or go to a therapist does not in any way undermine the authority of the Word of God. It does not take anything away from sound theology. It is simply a method,  and one that works, to open our hearts to the voice of the Holy Spirit in a way that coincides with God’s design of the human mind.

TPM does not command the Holy Spirit to do our will….to drive out demons or to heal a sickness. TPM simply assumes that the Spirit wants to speak to us…. and asks Him to do so.

As medicine and knowledge of the physical body peaked, many Christians and church leaders resisted it,  believing that it somehow undermined the authority of God and believing in Him as the Great Healer. However,  as time went on, we are now able to see that God has designed our bodies a certain way, and given us this knowledge through discovery of His creation.  We know that if we break a bone, it must be set and put into a cast to heal. We don’t resist this, opting to read the Word of God and memorize scripture instead.  Could God heal that broken bone without a cast? Of course. But it is nonsensical not to use our knowledge of God’s design of the human body in order to seek healing.  

The same is true of the human mind.  It has a design. It works in a certain way.  Our memories are tied to emotions because God created us that way.  The human mind, heart, emotions, and body are designed by God in His image.  Whatever we discover of the way that it works causes us to marvel at His greatness and His intelligent design.  Therefore, to discover the way the human mind works and to invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts and minds through prayer is not to undermine the Word of God but to obey it.  

This is not to say that the TPM method is the only method and that all who not practice it are in disobedience to God. No,  I don’t mean that at all. But I do mean that it is a good way. It is a way that works. It is a way that is backed by science and all that we have discovered about the emotions of humankind.

I have visited a Christian Psychologist and therapist quite a few times in my journey of emotional healing.  Having never heard of TPM before, this therapist has asked me the very same questions you see on the map. Why? Because she has devoted her life to the study of how God designed the human mind and hopes to use that knowledge to help people heal from emotional pain.  

My grandfather is the founder of Recovery in Christ ministries,  a program much like AA designed for addicts in recovery who are seeking to live a life surrendered to Jesus.  I showed him the TPM map. He nodded and said, “Oh yes, this is all very familiar. I’ve never seen it in a map format, but I ask these questions probably a hundred times a week”. He is a substance abuse counselor and follower of Jesus.  He took a picture of the map to take with him.

My point is this: TPM is not the one and only method of hearing from God. That being said,  it is an effective method of digging up emotions and seeking healing in a way that works because it is based on what experts know about God’s design of the human mind and emotions.  

To be opposed to the practice of TPM can be equated to being opposed to modern medicine.  God designed the body. God designed the mind. There are methods to discover His design and work in cooperation with it.  

 

Consider the following passage of Scripture:

 

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,  even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.  “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.  In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:15‭-‬27.

If you are in Christ, the Spirit of truth is within you.  Does it not make sense to quiet yourself to listen to that Spirit? Jesus himself said that he would manifest himself to you through the Spirit of truth He has given you! He also said that the Spirit of truth would be your teacher, the Spirit that would bring to remembrance all that Jesus has spoken.  You can see that He is talking about the voice of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the Word of God. Study His Word. Obey His Commandments. Listen to His Spirit.

To believe that the Holy Spirit can and will speak truth to you and bring to remembrance the Word of God at just the right moment is every

bit as Biblical as reading and memorizing scripture.  Both concepts are embedded here within the same passage,  because they are meant to work together. We do not simply read and memorize and expect that to change us without opening our hearts to the Spirit of God and believing that He can and will teach us.  

TPM is simply a method of inviting the Holy Spirit to do just that in a way that coincides with God’s intelligent design of our minds.  We are made in His image. TPM is a way in which to cooperate with God. Please note, I did not say it is the ONLY way to do this. But to be opposed to the practice of TPM is to be opposed to a practical and effective method of understanding our minds and emotions and inviting His Spirit in to heal.

Do you have another effective method of tapping into your pain and emotions and inviting Jesus in? Wonderful if you do! If you do not….if you have never made this a practice of your life… then TPM is a simple way to begin obedience in hearing from the Holy Spirit,  that Helper He sent to be with you forever. That Teacher he promised would bring to remembrance all that Jesus taught when He walked the earth. We have the Spirit of truth in us. Take the time to get before God, open the rawest of your emotions to Him, and invite Him in to heal.  

If you are interested in learning more about Transformation Prayer Ministry, visit https://www.transformationprayer.org/

Chapter 5- Isla and Fritz

Spring 1844

Catherine tried to choose to be happy. I’ve done my best she told herself more than once per day, but a new development in her social circle was making her quest for peace and happiness less than effortless. Her name was Isla. Isla Fremming. And she contrasted Catherine in every conceivable way. Whereas Catherine was bold and thoughtful, Isla was bashful and flighty. Catherine scorned attention from the miners. Isla basked in it, and even indulged the older men in flirtatious conversation. They contrasted one another even in appearance. Catherine had a head full of heavy black, unruly curls, which could look almost copper when the sun hit them right. Isla had long, white-blond silky hair that seemed always right in place. Catherine’s eyes were dark and soulful. Isla’s were such a bright blue they were almost shocking to look at. Mesmerizing Catherine thought. That’s what she is, mesmerizing. Catherine hated her. Isla did not seem too fond of Catherine either. She came down to the mine often. Catherine wondered if she came just to antagonize her. She did it in such a polished way that one could not have definitely said she was cruel or mean or even impolite. Yet, Catherine was ever aware of Isla’s dislike for her.

Isla seemed to dislike Catherine simply for being another young and beautiful woman present in the small community. Catherine hated Isla for other reasons- reasons she could not quite define. She would have welcomed the opportunity for a female friend. There had been so few women in her life, her mother being her only constant and true friend. It was not Isla’s mesmerizing beauty, either, that Catherine hated. In fact, she felt a burden lifted at being relieved of some unwanted attentions.

Catherine could not be sure of the inner workings of Isla’s mind, but it seemed to Catherine that Isla imagined herself Catherine’s competitor for the attentions of the men. It infuriated Catherine that it would be impolite to have shouted, I do not like these men, Isla, have them! By all means! In Isla’s presence Catherine felt she embodied all that Isla thought her to be…jealous and flirtatious and yearning for any ounce of attention she could acquire. She did not want to be seen in such a light by Isla or anyone else. And somehow, Isla had the power to force that persona upon her simply by being present. Isla seemed always to place herself conveniently between Catherine and Fritz, then flashing a triumphant look upon Catherine, as if Catherine had ever been vying for the attentions of Fritz of all people. Such a sad excuse for a man she often thought to herself as she gratefully watched Isla intercept his unwelcome attentions. She would have been thankful enough for Isla simply for relieving her of painful conversations with Fritz about all of his oh so glorious achievements and talents. But those petty looks of triumph Isla flashed at her were more than Catherine could bear. As if I want anything to do with him! She wished she could shout it out across the Mississippi. But it welled up inside of her, growing her anger for Isla by the day. It was the whispers about Fritz she hated the most.

“I wonder which one he’ll choose,” an older man said under his breath, shortly after having passed by Catherine and looked over to see Isla and Fritz talking across the way. And they say the women are the gossips, she thought, men are the worst gossips, and much less discreet about it, too. As if I am simply here for the taking! For him to choose! Oh, I wish Dane were here to see this. He would have laughed at him with me. He would see how silly and frivolous Isla is. Dane. Now there’s a real man. Dane. So highly intelligent, yet so humble. So well versed in literature, yet never saw fit to bring it up in order to impress me or anyone. Dane. So kind to the poor. Dane. So strong and yet kind.

Chapter 4- Catherine and Dane

Fall, 1843

On Tuesdays, Catherine road to town, now called Dubuque, with her father, saddlebags filled with ready made loaves of bread, fresh milk, eggs, and wool to sell to the miners. It was one of those very wet spring days and the ground soaked her skirt and petticoats and ankles until she could feel the cold in her bones. The mines were busy and the ice harvesters packing up to head north, or going back to work in the mines.

Catherine set up shop outside the mine as her father prepared to go in.

 

“I’ll take two loaves of bread and a dozen eggs,” came the gruff voice of a stranger. Catherine looked up. A tall man hovered over her.

“That will be three dollars, sir.” The man let out a chuckle.

“I’ll pay you two, and that’s more than generous.” She rose and placed her hands on her hips, looked at him resolutely and said,

“The price is three dollars, sir.”

“Worth but 50 cents, perhaps a dollar.” Catherine tightened her lips and in a clearly restrained voice said,

“The price is three dollars. If you are displeased, by all means, move along and find your eggs and flour elsewhere.”

The man chuckled again.

“You’re a regular thief, you are,” he said, but reached into his pocket, handed Catherine three bills. She snatched them out of his hand and turned her back.

“A thief, and a snarly one at that,” he chuckled to himself as he walked away. Catherine was thoroughly irritated. She hoped he was not to be in the area very long. She had never seen him before and concluded that he was likely just passing through.

 

But the next Tuesday, he was back and wanted to buy more milk and eggs. Before he even approached, she was irritated at the sight of him, tall and strong and lumbering toward her with his head held high as if he were someone important. She wondered what he did. He wasn’t a miner, that was sure. She hardly knew a man in the area who was not a miner. What could he be. She wondered. What is his story.

He did not argue her prices this time, but chuckled and muttered to herself that this was most certainly robbery.

“What do you do, anyway?” Catherine asked, curiosity getting the better of her.

“I’m a merchant.”

“You don’t look like one,” she retorted, with more hostility in her voice than she’d intended.

“How so?”

“Well, you’re none too fat for starters.” Dane nearly choked on his first gulp of milk. Catherine felt indignant at being laughed at as if she were a child who had said something silly.

“And why else?” he asked, sounding amused.

“You’re not dressed all fanciful either. I suppose you’re not a very good merchant.” He laughed again, and Catherine grew more irritated.

“I’m a very good merchant, I’ll have you know. Forgive me for not dressing a fool and becoming a glutton simply because I have the means to.” She eyed him warily, then said,

“Well, if you’re a good merchant and you don’t intend to keep yourself fat or clothed in furs, then can I assume you are plenty wealthy enough to stop whining like a child over my prices?”

“You have my word,” he said and went away chuckling.

 

And he was true to his word. He did not utter another breath about the prices. He didn’t call her a thief, and over all, he began to be less irritating and more interesting. Catherine took a great interest in his part in trading, his interactions with the Sauk, and his ability to see the profit in just about anything. He knew when prices would rise and when they would decline, and he was nothing short of an opportunist. He would hold goods until he knew the prices would rise, and prepare to purchase products right when he knew they would drop. He had excellent relationships with various tribes without seeming to compromise his relations with settlers. Catherine couldn’t help herself from asking him every question that crossed her mind. She noticed quickly that he began to stop by on Tuesdays, even when he did not purchase anything. Or sometimes he would purchase more wool or eggs when he could not possibly have run out, unless he was feeding a family of seven he’d forgotten to tell her about.

“Do you have a family?” She asked him one day. She knew it sounded very forward, perhaps even fast…but it was innocent enough, she reasoned. She was quite simply interested in this man and his life- a life so entirely different from hers. His person so different from anyone she had ever met. His experiences were wide and varied and hers so small and routine. For the first time in her young life, her mind began to wander beyond her little home and farm and the town of Dubuque and life on the Mississippi. Her mind began to wander West and South and even as far east as across the Atlantic.

“No family,” he had answered. “Least none I have contact with. I never married. Last I talked to my brother was nearly three years ago.”

“And your mother?”

“Died when I was twelve.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, feeling a deep sadness at the thought of losing her own mother, especially at so tender an age. It was the first time their conversation went beyond the material world and into the soul. She looked at him in a different light now. He had a wealth of experiences and knowledge, and yet she had to draw them out of him if she wanted to hear. He did not seem overly eager to share his world with her. She thought he was the strong, silent type. But when once she had urged him enough to begin to tell his tales, she sat mesmerized by all that he had seen and done, by all that he knew of the world. He seemed to want to tell Catherine mostly about his profits from different parts of the Western territories, but Catherine cared little for his profits. She wanted to know of the people. What did they look like? How did they live? What did their languages sound like? What did they believe in?

When he talked to her of England, he focused on the pretty penny an upper class lady would pay for furs. Catherine wanted to know what they looked like in the furs. She wanted to know if they sounded much like her mother, who had never lost her English accent after all these years. She wanted to know about people. Dane gave her this information as much as he was able, but she could see clearly that his time and energies had always revolved around profit and stocks and shares in the newest inventions. She had to admit to herself that she often became bored with these details, but she listened eagerly to catch any information she could about the people and the way they lived and talked…the way they existed.

 

Dane found her questions as asmusing as she found his experiences. He had never thought about the people much before, unless it was in regards to the potential income they presented him. He never much cared for observing the way people lived and what they believed, how they raised their children or treated their servants. It took him by surprise to hear such questions, and he wondered why he himself had never pondered such things. He was interested in money, and she was interested in people. He had never met anyone so genuinely interested in him. So genuinely interested in other people. So quick to ask questions and slow to talk about herself. It intrigued him. He had never met anyone quite like her.

Her beauty alone would not have been enough to hold his attention. He had seen many beautiful women, from the sophistication of English royalty to the captivating beauty of the Indian women. It was not her beauty that reached out and grasped his soul. It was her zeal for life, her interest in him and in others, her ability to draw out of him experiences which had long been put to rest in the recesses of his mind, and her way of looking at those memories in ways he never would have. She was altogether different from him. She was altogether different from anyone he had ever met. Her eyes were dark and soulful- her face full of life. Her smile radiant, her laugh infectious. She began to take up the spaces in his mind.

 

Catherine began to long for her Tuesday visits with Dane. It was her only door into a world completely unfamiliar to her.

“I noticed every week, you bring home loaves and milk that no one buys. What becomes of it?”

“We eat it, of course, what did you think I would do with it?”

“All of it?”

“Well, no. Some of the bread goes dry before we can get to it. I crumble it to feed the chickens.” He frowned.

“And I suppose some of the milk goes a bit sour before we can drink it.”

“Suppose you came to town more than once a week?”

“One day a week is quite enough to leave mama to care for the animals and the gardening.”
“Quite right. I see now why you must charge as you do. To cover your wastefulness.” Catherine was indignant.
“How dare you? You know nothing of my business. It is mine to run. I suggest you mind your own business. And what would you do with it, oh all knowing one?” she mocked. He gave her a stern look of disapproval.

“No need to get snarky. Let me show you what I had in mind.” He began loading her bundles into his saddlebags, then offered a hand to hoist her up. She looked at him warily,
“And what if I don’t wish to go. Father will be up from the mine any moment.”

“Just why I’ll take you on my horse. Leave yours for your father. Come, it won’t take long. I suppose he can wait a few minutes for you.” Knowing full well that it could actually be hours before her father emerged, she went with him.

She held on ‘round his waist. To her, the very feel of him was one of strength and confidence. She felt safe with him, much safer than she felt riding alone when it was near dark, and she felt glad of his companionship for a little longer that evening. The horse trudged through the streets and into the heart of the town, and down some poorly arranged alleyways. The place was significantly more populated now than it had been when Catherine was a child. As they rode on, the homes began to look more and more drab. A sadness fell over Catherine’s heart. Dane halted the horse, helped Catherine down, and began unloading. Silently, he handed her one bundle, took two under his arms, and with his head motioned her to follow him.  She stepped into a dimly lit room. One candle glowed in the darkness.

“Mrs. Martin, I have someone I’d like you to meet.” The woman stood. She would have been tall, had she not been sort of hunched over. She held a baby on her hip. Catherine looked around the room. There were children sprawled about the floor. There was not a piece of furniture in sight. And yet, there were furs. Rich furs. Each child held one close. Catherine looked at him, knowing instantly he was the only reason these children were reasonably warm when the cold of the night hit and the winds off the Mississippi came blundering through town.

 

They rode in silence, save for the clicking of hooves. Finally, as they neared the entrance of the mine, Dane broke the silence,

“Catherine, I didn’t bring you to the Martins to bring you sadness.”

“I know, but it did all the same.”

“Did it not bring you any joy?”

“Oh, yes, I suppose. At feeding them. But looking down the lane, I knew there were more children in more houses just like that one.”

“If everyone took on the world’s sadness like that, I fear no one should ever feel happy again.”

“I wonder if I shall.”

“You shall. You must.”
“How?”

“By knowing that the cares of the world are not on your shoulders. By knowing that you have done what you could do and offered what you had to offer, and that if everyone would do the same, the world would be an altogether happier place.”

She smiled and leaned her head on his back. She was very tired.

 

“Catherine,” her father called.

“Yes, Papa?”

“Dane Johnson. He talks with you often?”

“Yes, Papa.”

“And what do you think of him? Is he a decent sort of fellow?”

“Yes, very decent. He is kind to the poor. He’s an interesting man. He has been so many places.”

“And he is not vulgar in speech with you?”

“Oh, heavens, no! Never! Never so much as an indecent glance, Papa.” Charles looking satisfied, grunted and went back to his reading. Catherine stood there for a moment, hoping to talk to him more about Dane. She wanted to know what her father thought of him, if he had ever talked with him. If he might invite him in one day soon, before his Autumn trip to England. Before she could think of how to begin, Charles was so immersed in his reading she thought it best not to interrupt.

 

She could not fall asleep that night. She thought about Dane and all of his adventures. She thought about the furs he had given to the Martins. She was sure he had lost a pretty penny on those. He would be leaving soon, she knew.  She wondered, more than anything, what England was like. She knew he traveled there every fall to make what must be a small fortune on what they called exotic furs and she always wished for him to tell her more about it, the place her parents had come from. But Dane seemed always much more interested in his stories from the West and South. Though she hung on his every word, waiting to hear about England, he rarely described it. She resolved to ask him directly on his next visit.

 

“What is England like?”  The question had been ready on her tongue from the moment she saw his black horse galloping in the distance. She’d never heard a clear answer from her mother, and had felt that England was a place so awful she should never ask about it. But still, she wondered, knowing it was likely she had grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins there, people she’d never heard mentioned but had always wondered about.

Dane eyed her carefully.

“Would you like to see for yourself?” He asked. She looked at him, confused.

“How would that be possible?”

“Well, you would pack up your things and board the ship with me.”

“Dane, that would hardly be appropriate!”

“It could be.”

“How do you mean?”

“If you would go as my wife.”

“Dane!”

“I’ve asked your father, already. If that’s what you are concerned with. He hardly knows me, I know. But he knows my reputation well enough, and he knows I could provide for you very well, and he gave me his blessing to ask.”

“I….I can’t” she stammered. “I can’t just marry you just like that!”

“Forgive me,” he replied. “I thought…your father thought… this was something it clearly was not.” His face went sullen, and he mounted his horse and rode off. As Catherine watched him disappear into the distance, she wondered if he would be back to her the following week. If he would continue to answer her questions. If their conversations would go on. If he would take her to see the Martins again. I think I shall never see him again, she thought, and she felt a heaviness come over her heart. She would miss him, she was sure.

 

“Mother,” she asked one night as they performed their ritualized, almost synchronized bread making. “Mother, how do you know what love is. That is, how do you know what real love is. And what is just friendship or perhaps interest?”

Her mother thought for a while. And said,

“I am not sure if I have felt true love, Catherine, or if I’ve only felt infatuation. But the Good Lord must have a reason for allowing one to feel such a pull, such strong feelings of desire, else I can’t imagine He would have created our bodies so. Though those first feelings will melt into something different, I suppose they are important enough that they must be there at the start of it all. The memory of those first feelings have been a comfort to me when times grew hard. I remembered what it felt like to look at your father and feel a fire burning deep within my soul When I met your father, the pull was strong. He was handsome and his eyes were full of life, just like yours,” she tenderly crushed Catherine’s curls from her face,  “And he was, to me, an escape from being married off for status and money, which my father had worked so hard for. The very thought of him made my heart flutter. But whether that was true love, dear, I can’t rightly say. It grew into something akin to love, to be sure, but I was so very young, and your father was exciting. He was an escape from the borish world of self- important aristocrats I had been forced into. And I wanted it. I wanted out. I wanted an escape. I wanted something new and exciting. And I suppose that is also why we ended up here, across the Atlantic and as far west as we could get.” It was the most detail Catherine had ever heard, and she relished in it.

“You’ve never told me much about England. You know, I’ve always wondered.”

“England was not good to me, dear. I had no place there. America was the place for me. I’ve no wish to return or to remember that life. It was easier on the body but it beat down your soul.”

 

Catherine lay awake, yet another sleepless night, trying to recall if she had ever felt that flutter of her soul, a skipping of her heart. She could not remember. It had begun in irritation and ended in what could only be described as an attachment of some sort. If it were not an attachment at the very least, why would she be awake now, thinking of his firm set jaw and grayish blue eyes that seemed to peer through her soul. Why would she be wondering what it might have been like had she said yes and gone with him to England, as his bride? She couldn’t have done that, she knew. At the time he asked, it had caught her so completely off guard that she almost laughed. No, she could not be in love with him. And yet…and yet, as she came to understand the very real possibility that she would never see the man again, the tears formed against her will and slid down her cheeks.

 

If he were being honest with himself, Dane would have admitted that he felt quite embarrassed. But he was rarely honest with himself, and so what he thought he felt was indignant. Indignant, and yet determined. He would go to England and forget all about Catherine Turner, he promised himself. It was foolish anyway to have fallen for a poor miner’s daughter who probably carried more debt than wealth. Yet, even as he promised himself to forget her, he could almost see the red glint of her dark auburn hair in the summer sun. Her soulful dark blue eyes, her inquisitive brow, her lust for life, her zeal for knowledge. Yet, that was all it was. It was not an interest in his person, but in his experiences. He realized that now. He’d been a fool to think otherwise. He was twenty eight. She, but eighteen. That fact alone made him feel all the more foolish. He was like a friendly older gentlemen, to her. No wonder she had responded in such shock to his question. She’d marry a boy her own age, probably. Dane shook his head as if he could physically shake the thoughts of her out of his mind.

 

While Dane tried to forget Catherine, she tried to remember him. How had she felt when he had talked to her? If she had not known she was in love, was it possible she could know it now? She could remember no fluttery feelings, yet she missed him terribly. She longed to hear his voice again, to ask him questions and to hear his answers. She missed him terribly. And the longer he stayed away, the more his face appeared to her in her dreams, both day and night. And his voice seemed to linger in her ear. She could almost feel the deep rumble of his hearty laugh.

 

She was nearly chilled to the bone that mid- November day, unpacking her goods and setting up shop as she had done hundreds of times before. She had long since stopped looking off into the distance for the site of Dane’s horse. But she thought of him often.

“I came to say  good-bye.” For a moment, Catherine wondered whether the voice was in her head. But then, she looked up and there he stood, tall and dark and fierce. And then, she felt it. She was sure of it this time. That fluttering of the chest. The skipping beats of her heart. She felt her face go red and her insides hot. She knew without a doubt that it was type of feeling her mother had told her about. It was, if not love, infatuation.

 

“I came to apologize for my presumptuous behavior earlier this year. I pray you will forgive me.”

It took her a few moments to gather herself.

“Yes, yes of course.”

“Then until we meet again,” he took her hand and kissed it in a very gentlemanly like fashion.

“Dane…”

“Yes?”

“When do you leave?”

“Next week?”

“Can I see you again before you leave?”

“No, I don’t think that is in either of our best interests. Don’t forget to visit the Martins while I am away.”
“I never could.”

“Good girl.”

With that, he rode off. He had said until we meet again. Yet, he had also kissed her hand with no more lust than if he had been kissing the hand of a great aunt. And then he had called her a good girl, as if she were a child. She felt a strange blend of excitement and disappointment. She was excited that she had seen him again, and that she would see him again. She was disappointed at his seeming lack of romantic interest in her He had apologized. Perhaps he felt he had made a mistake in asking her in the first place. She cursed herself for ever having refused his offer. But then, she had not felt that pull as her mother called it, until that moment when he had rode up and offered his apologies.

 

Other men seemed to take Dane’s absence as an open door, one Catherine did not welcome. She had no interest in any of the miners with their coarse language and lusty eyes. She felt a sort of repugnance at them, and she missed Dane all the more for knowing that he had been a barrier between her and them. She had been completely unaware of the goings on around them whenever she had been with Dane. She was zoned in on him and and his experiences so much so that she did not even notice the other miners who had all but assumed she was no longer available. Now that he was away, she could see quite clearly the hungry eyes of the men about her, and she felt ill at ease and even unsafe at times. She was sure to have her father with her on her journey’s to and from town, to the Martins and back. She had nearly enough money saved for a horse of her own, but thought she might put it off as she preferred to ride with her father anyway. The men made her feel unsafe. But Dane, like her father, made her feel safe and protected.

She thought of him throughout the days. Her days in town she thought of him most, but even at home she thought of him while she milked the cow or tended the chickens. She talked of him with her mother as they made bread and tidied the house.

“You think highly of him,” Elizabeth had said with a smile.

“I do. But he is ten years my senior, and I wonder if he sees me as nothing more than a child.”
“I hardly think he would have whisked you off to England if he thought of you that way, dear.” Elizabeth’s face was creased and her hands rough from hard work, but she had an unquestionable between that shone through the lines of age and work. Catherine thought her mother the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, and she often tried to remember what she had looked like when she was younger. She remembered the touch of her hand and the feel of her skirts, but she could not remember her face. She imagined she had been a great beauty in her prime. She was a great beauty even now.

“I have reason to believe he had changed his mind- realized he made a mistake.”

“Yes, you’ve said so dear. But you’ve no reason to be sure of it.”

“If you’d been there, mama. If you’d heard the way he apologized, the way he kissed my hand.”

“But child, you nearly laughed when he first asked you. I don’t blame or accuse you. You were quite taken by surprise, I imagine. But you must understand what that might do to a man, to see you in shock and suppressing hilarity when he has only just barred his soul to you.”
“Oh, no, mother, don’t. Don’t make me think of it that way.”

“It is no fault of yours, dear. But you must be honest with the past if you ever expect to be honest about the future.”

“What have I done?”

“It will all work out, dear. Don’t worry. If you marry Dane someday, you will be happy. If you do not, you will be happy.”

“How can you possibly know that?” Her mother smiled that soft, tender, knowing smile that Catherine had come to be so familiar with.

“I know, because your happiness does not depend so much on whom you marry or even if you marry so much as it depends upon your decision to be happy.”

“I hardly think it is so simple, mother.”

“You will see. With time, you will come to believe it just as I do.

5 Homeschooling Myths Debunked

When I have voiced my decisions to home educate my children, I have come across an abundance of ignorance. And I do not mean that hatefully, but in the truest sense of the word. The simply don’t understand. I have heard everything from, “Homeschooling should be illegal” to “How will your kids know how to interact with others?” It’s hard not to get frustrated with these seemingly stupid questions, but I also understand that they simply don’t know the answers. Thus, I have decided to write out my answers to some of the most prominent arguments  or “myths” if you will, to home education.

Myth#1- “Homeschooling will not give your kids the social interaction they need to function in the world.”

This is probably the argument I hear most often. It seems as if the moment you mention you plan to home educate, people assume you must live under a rock. Home education in no way hinders your children from social interaction. In fact, it often allows for more of it. The purpose of school is for education and learning. Social interaction can, and most often does, happen in tee-ball, dance, gymnastics, etc. Studying at home does not limit social interaction. Since home education offers one on one instruction time, it often creates more time in kids schedules for activities and time playing with neighborhood friends, play dates, etc. And quite frankly, I have seen scores of public educated kids who are not functioning all that well in the world, unless addicted to video games is what you consider functioning.

Myth #2- “Homeschooling cannot possibly give as good of an education as public or private school because the parents are not accredited teachers.”

I went to school for Secondary Education. I have taught History and English in both the public and private school settings. I can promise you that with a good curriculum, the one on one instruction of a parent can (and most often is) much more effective than one accredited teacher trying to reach 20 to 30 students. So much of my education in college centered around managing a classroom and trying to meet students of various levels with one lesson. That is all a non applicable in the home education setting. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, “The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests (NHERI).

Myth #3- “Homeschooling is illegal in Germany, so it must be bad for the child.”

Germany also thought Jews were bad for the country. So….there’s that.

Myth #4- “Your kids will get sick of being with only their family all day every day”

Very few home educated families do it all on their own. Most are involved in co-ops, study groups, and group field trips. I am personally choosing to work with Classical Conversations (CC). It is an amazing curriculum in which we meet all together one full day a week in order to bring in tutors, do science projects, etc. I have taught in public and private schools, and I have never found anything like what CC does. It fosters a love for learning, collaboration, and growth.

Myth #5- “Your kids will end up sheltered and will not understand the world around them”

Anyone who has been to any therapy sessions knows the damage done by childhood wounds. In fact, I would venture to say that very few people end up in intense therapy because they were too sheltered. Perhaps there are some. But most people are dealing with childhood memories of things that happened because they were not sheltered enough. Some were abused, others bullied, some taken advantage of in other ways. I am not saying that these things will happen to your children if you do not home educate. But I am saying that the argument that they will be too sheltered is simply ignorant. Our children are not suffering from being overly sheltered. In fact, a lot of good could come from protecting their innocence a little longer. In a home education setting, parents can explain the world to their children in ways they know their children will understand. They can take them out into the world with their protection and understanding. They can discuss the concerns their children have. They can be emotionally present for their children. If that is sheltering, then let the sheltering begin.

I hope this helps answer some of your questions on home education, or perhaps will help you answer some of the questions your friends and relatives ask.

Side Note: No, we don’t all wear long jean skirts.